TOTECHASER: NSA Exploit of the Day

Today’s item from the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog:


(TS//SI//REL) TOTECHASER is a Windows CE implant targeting the Thuraya 2520 handset. The Thuraya is a dual mode phone that can operate either in SAT or GSM modes. The phone also supports a GPRS data connection for Web browsing, e-mail, and MMS messages. The initial software implant capabilities include providing GPS and GSM geo-location information. Call log, contact list, and other user information can also be retrieved from the phone. Additional capabilities are being investigated.

(TS//SI//REL) TOTECHASER will use SMS messaging for the command, control, and data exfiltration path. The initial capability will use covert SMS messages to communicate with the handset. These covert messages can be transmitted in either Thuraya Satellite mode or GMS mode and will not alert the user of this activity. An alternate command and control channel using the GPRS data connection based on the TOTEGHOSTLY impant is intended for a future version.

(TS//SI//REL) Prior to deployment, the TOTECHASER handsets must be modified. Details of how the phone is modified are being developed. A remotely deployable TOTECHASER implant is being investigated. The TOTECHASER system consists of the modified target handsets and a collection system.

(TS//SI//REL) TOTECHASER will accept configuration parameters to determine how the implant operates. Configuration parameters will determine what information is recorded, when to collect that information, and when the information is exfiltrated. The configuration parameters can be set upon initial deployment and updated remotely.

Unit Cost: $


Page, with graphics, is here. General information about TAO and the catalog is here.

In the comments, feel free to discuss how the exploit works, how we might detect it, how it has probably been improved since the catalog entry in 2008, and so on.

Posted on February 18, 2014 at 2:17 PM7 Comments


Carpe February 18, 2014 3:56 PM

Of particular interest on this one is the target demographic. Thuraya is a favorite alternative to the Iridium because they have GSM roaming for when you don’t want to waste too much money on sat time. (plus they are a lot less bulky and easy to carry on your person). I used to see them all over the Middle East, particularly in Bahrain, UAE, etc.

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